Or, Dr. Jaeger’s Sanitary Woolen System. German doctor Gustav Jaeger had a theory. He believed that because humans were animals, the only proper fiber for human wear was animal in origin. Thus, he advocated the wearing of wool, especially as undergarments.
In 1880 he released a book on his theories, translated into English as Standardized Apparel For Health Protection. His concepts caught on, especially in Germany, where woolen underwear was being manufactured according to his ideas. In 1884, one of his devotees, Lewis Tomalin, brought the clothing to Britain as Dr. Jaeger’s Sanitary Woollen System Co. Within a few years the clothing was made in England under the Jaeger brand.
There was a Jaeger store in London, and one was opened in New York as well, located at 306 Fifth Avenue. Most of the garments sold by Jaeger in these early years were items that were worn next to the skin. My little catalog is full of long johns, socks, undershirts and nightclothes.
Dr. Jaeger believed that dyes were harmful because the chemicals could be absorbed through the pores. Thus, most of the products sold at Jaeger were either the natural color of the wool, or were white.
Among the claims Dr. Jaeger made, was that woolen clothing protected one from disease. He had proof that the wearer was protected from cholera, small pox, measles, and the plague.
One of the few black garments offered were these equestrian tights. Women riders had been wearing trousers under their riding skirts for some time. I suppose it was just too immodest for a woman to wear the natural color because it might look like bare skin on a light-skinned woman.
And here’s the label from the corset. I love how the photo shows not only the label, but also the texture of the wool knit. It’s little things like this that elevate what could have been just a lot of pretty pictures (and there are plenty of those to be sure) into a very useful and appreciated resource. I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in women’s sportswear and the social history of the advance of women into the public sphere.
Sporting Fashion the exhibition, will not be back in Los Angeles until May, 2024. If you hurry, you can catch it at The Frick in Pittsburg (until September 26, 2021) or catch it in Memphis, TN (July 24–October 16, 2022), Davenport, IA (February 11–May 7, 2023), Utica, NY (June 17–September 17, 2023), Cincinnati, OH (October 14, 2023–January 14, 2024), or Jacksonville, FL (February 24–May 19, 2024). I plan to see it in Memphis, or possibly Cincinnati.
Sporting Fashion the book was written by FIDM curators Kevin L. Jones and Christina M. Johnson with Kirstin Purtich. It can be ordered from the FIDM website.